Random things learnt from new shows in development

Random things learnt from new shows in development

Hello all,

New Year has been really busy so far. Mainly because I’m now directing or producing a bunch of new shows, including Imagine If You Will (narrative impro inspired by The Hero’s Journey), Arthur (new short-form) and Zorbo Ironheart (youtube sketch show).

Lots of random things being learned rapidly at the moment, in fact so much so that I haven’t grouped them into any particular overall theme or anything. A lot of it has accidentally ended up sounding like management speak. So instead here’s some things that I’ve learned recently that may be helpful if you’re forming groups:

A team is a group of people working together for a common goal for which they share accountability. So you need everyone in the same place (the group), and you need to know what shared thing you are working towards (common goal) and then need to constantly track progress. So you need to constantly check in with he group, define the goal, and find out how everyone is doing.

The goal of ‘we don’t know what we want to do, we just want to play and find something’ is still a goal, and a good one.

Stages of putting together a show:

Define – Rehearse – Perform – Learn – Adapt – Define – Rehearse – Perform – Repeat

I’ve found it essential to have an enforced 1 minute uninterrupted chat at start and end of each rehearsal, with everyone in the group having 1 minute to say anything at all – hopes, dreams, fears, concerns, likes, loves, improvements. Doing it right from the start and every time you are together keeps things out in the open and stops problems building up in secret.

Don’t give feedback or direction to actors unless they have a chance to act on it straight away. Actors learn through doing. For the same reason I tend to repeat each exercise with people in workshops, so they can get feedback but actually do something about it.

Imagine If You Will – Fluid changing of scenes can be achieved with the hero walking off one side of the stage to go forward into his story, and the other side to return to a previous bit of story. The other actors should be on stage already to give the hero something to walk into – they can be characters, props, anything.

Imagine If You Will – Experienced improvisers will learn more from just repeatedly doing the show over and over again than they will from me trying to teach them something. Do the show in rehearsal, honestly chat about what was working well for you all. Don’t accidentally discuss content (“when you opened the door in the first scene and saw it was the antarctic, I thought it would have been better if it was the Grand Canyon because I was planning to come on as a cowboy”), just deal with what’s actually on stage and technique, impro basics.

Imagine If You Will – We added the step ‘flash to bad guy’ to the hero’s journey structure, so that the audience can see the special world and what threatens the hero. We also added the step ‘re-state want and dream clearly’ just before the innermost cave, so that we remember why it’s actually important to the hero.

Imagine If You Will – To improvise the hero’s journey it’s really objective driven, you’re either helping or stopping the hero on their journey.

Imagine If You Will – Just do something and work out the story later. We’re all adding to the story offer by offer, so just do something.

Zorbo Ironheart – open chat is essential.

Zorbo Ironheart – Sketches should keep to the thread, one simple game.

Zorbo Ironheart  – constant process of explorer, artist, judge, warrior.

Zorbo Ironheart  – having a closed cast facebook group has been highly effective at coming up with lots of ideas. Any of the cast can go on it at any time, add an idea, and others can then comment and add to it. It means we have a massive ongoing brainstorm session going on, rather than having to wait until set rehearsal times.

Zorbo Ironheart – Put in a passenger/straight guy to react to anything that’s weird.

Zorbo Ironheart – Sketches can have couple of simple beats at the start, establishing reality.

Zorbo Ironheart – Whenever I personally start something new (acting, stand-up, sketch) at first I end up reinventing the wheel, and then it always goes back to impro basics.

Arthur – it’s great working with actors who are willing to jump up and try new games and exercises, have them not work, try them again, and then jump again. It gives the director permission to introduce new things.


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